Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wilcox County historical marker describes early Alabama postal roads

'Postal Routes of 1820' historical marker.
This week’s featured historical marker is the “POSTAL ROUTES OF 1820” marker in Wilcox County, Ala. This marker is located near Catherine at the intersection of State Highway 28 and State Highway 162.

This marker was erected on March 4, 1961 by Edward Waters and the Selma Chapter of the Daughters of American Colonists. There’s text on both sides of the marker, but both sides are the same. What follows in the complete text from the marker:

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“POSTAL ROUTES OF 1820 – Two miles north of this point was the intersection of two important postal routes of early Alabama, the Saint Stephens-Cahawba Road and the Tuskaloosa-Prairie Bluff Road.”

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I encountered this historical marker a number of months ago while on the way home from a field trip to Old Cahawba. As you’re traveling south on State Route 28, the marker is on the left hand side of the road. If you’re looking at a map of the intersection of State Highways 28 and 162, you’ll notice that this marker isn’t far from the west bank of the Alabama River.

As many of you will know, the cities and towns listed on this historical marker were important settlements during Alabama’s early history, which is why they were linked by postal roads. St. Stephens, which is located on the Tombigbee River in present day Washington County, Ala., served as Alabama’s territorial capital from 1817 to 1819. In 1819, the year that Alabama became a state, the capital was moved to Cahaba.

Cahaba was Alabama’s first real capital, that is, the first capital after Alabama officially became a state. Located near where the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers run together in present day Dallas County, Cahaba served as Alabama’s capital until January 1826. Today it’s a state historic site, and if you ever get the chance to visit, I encourage you to do so.

In 1826, due to flooding at Cahaba, Alabama officials moved the state capital to Tuscaloosa, another city that’s mentioned on the historical marker described above. Tuscaloosa, which sits on the banks of the Black Warrior River in present day Tuscaloosa County, is a thriving city of nearly 100,000 residents today. It served as the state capital from 1826 to 1846, when the capital was moved to its present site in Montgomery.

The other early settlement mentioned on the historical marker described above is Prairie Bluff, which is now nothing more than a ghost town. Located on the Alabama River, roughly halfway between Saint Stephens and Cahaba in present day Wilcox County, Prairie Bluff thrived as an early river town between 1819 and the start of the Civil War. However, with the rise of the railroads and the decline of commercial river traffic, Prairie Bluff slowly dwindled into decline.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below. 

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